Enhancing Customer Service Interactions With DiSC

Illustration by Ben Powell

There are a plethora of training options available to service leaders who are looking to enhance the communication skills of their agents. Having had exposure to many of these, DiSC is my top choice with the most significant impact. Having now studied DiSC and received my credentials as a certified facilitator, there is no mystery why the tool is so great for a customer service environment. This post will introduce you to the basics of DiSC theory; explore how it enhances communication skill for agents, as well as recommending next steps to start using DiSC with your team.

The DiSC Model of Behavior was first introduced by Dr. William Moulton Marston in 1928 (yes, the same guy who created the “Wonder Woman” comics). His theory proposed that the expression of emotions could be grouped into four original categories:

Dominance (D)
Inducement (i)
Submission (S)
Compliance (C)

With countless iterations and improvements over the years, DiSC has become a reliable and widely recognized training tool.

While on the surface it may appear to be just another test for basic self-awareness, this is not at all like the “What’s Your Patronus?” quiz on Facebook. The assessment will help by identifying an individual’s primary communication tendencies and potential weaknesses. When well facilitated, DiSC is all about learning how to become more flexible as a communicator—rather than providing validation and further entrenching yourself into default behaviors. Another wonderful aspect of DiSC is how it’s applicable to both customer and internal communications.

DiSC for Improved Customer Communication

When you pause to consider, it is really quite remarkable what an agent is able to do each day. Within seconds, the agent must ascertain the communication style of the customer and construct their message accordingly. You have customers that want the bottom line as quickly as possible (D), others that love to be educated with laborious details (C), and still others that just love to chat about personal things for 20+ minutes (i). When the agent has a solid understanding of DiSC, they will be able to better classify their audience and customize their message for the best result. In other words:

Using DiSC, your agents will form a better connection with customers a higher percentage of the time.

DiSC for Improved Internal Communication

Not only will DiSC improve customer communication, but also internal interactions. One of the chief benefits for leaders is developing well-balanced, high-performing teams. While all four communication styles have valuable attributes, they also have significant shortcomings. However, when a team has each communication style working in harmony, the dynamic is greatly enhanced. Additional benefits for customer service leaders include the following:

Hiring The Right Agent: When you understand the landscape of your team from a DiSC perspective, you will also know where your largest gaps are. As an example, if you have a team full of visionaries (i), but they oftentimes fail to execute, it may be time to hire a “C” or two. Having candidates take the DiSC exam will ensure that you are hiring the right team player based on gaps and the responsibilities of the role.

Enhanced Manager-to-Agent Dialogue: Coaching conversations are hard. When leaders have a good understanding of their agents’ DiSC type, as well as their own, they can design the message with maximum impact. D’s will generally just want the bottom line with little “filler.” I’s may want to get personal and “chit-chat” for long periods of time. C’s often require data and examples for the point to hit home. S’s may be resistant to changing behaviors and will need small, specific steps laid out to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Enhanced Agent-to-Agent Dialogue: Customer service is a team sport. When agents are not communicating well with each other, knowledge barriers and poor attitudes are a predictable result. The DiSC exercise should be done as a team event. As the learning takes place, the process of becoming vulnerable will increase empathy and understanding across the team. People are generally far more supportive if they are all playing a role together inside of a shared journey.

How to Get Started

The following are recommended next steps for using DiSC with your team. Be sure to customize based on your unique demographic and challenges.

Step 1: Take this free basic DiSC exam yourself. The test and results are limited, but it makes for an excellent starting point.

Step 2: Select one of the more comprehensive DiSC products based on this guide. “Everything DiSC” is excellent for a team as they offer a combined result report that can be purchased by the facilitator. Take the exam yourself first to ensure that it is a good fit.

Step 3: Purchase the exam for your team and have everyone complete by a certain date. Find a local certified DiSC facilitator to come and conduct a group session based on the results. If you have team members in different locations, conduct via teleconference with video capability if possible.

Step 4: Conduct “DiSC” refresher sessions on a periodic basis to keep the conversation going and drive the results from the session home. You will also need to adapt as new team members come aboard. Repeat the full “DiSC” exam and team session every couple of years. The results can change overtime, especially as people move into different roles and the team continues to evolve.

Please let me know if I can assist in any way. We’d also love to hear your DiSC experience!